This past Friday, Sarah Skinner’s dance collective, the Sisters of Salome put on a show themed The Tea Room to raise funds for their upcoming Toronto summer 2014 Fantasy Belly Dance show, which will be a full-length production inspired by the stories of the Arabian Nights. For Friday’s show, the dancers presented a traditional Moroccan tea ceremony to the audience, encompassing mint and rose water tea as well as various Moroccan delicacies.
This sounded like the ideal Crustcrumbs experience to us. I’m not generally a fan of rose or orange water but I could certainly be coerced into liking them in the right setting, like if a belly dancer happen to bring me a tray, spilling over in abundance with fragrant cookies. We also heard that the dancers would be balancing trays of candles on their heads in one of their routines, which meant we really couldn’t miss out on this performance.
When I use rose and orange water at home, I generally use it to clean my counters. Its powerful floral scent overwhelms the white vinegar and water solution I use, masking the vinegar scent, leaving my counters smelling like roses. I think it’s something Martha Stewart came up with, and you know – it’s a good thing.
But given the right setting those floral scents can work wonders and have the ability to transport a person across the globe to another time where the fragrance of roses and orange blossoms hang in the thick night air. When we were invited to contribute to the evenings delights, I knew I had to do something that incorporated those scents. Gazelle Horns fit in perfectly with the theme, as they are scented heavily with orange blossom water and almonds, and their elegant crescent shape would mimic the fluid moves of the dancers.
The pastry for these cookies is not what you might expect. It’s actually much closer to a pasta dough than a cookie dough. As such, I say go all the way and use a pasta machine to achieve the appropriate thinness. You could absolutely roll out the dough by hand, as it’s done traditionally but I’ve found the pasta roller makes a major difference in making this an easy production.
Makes 30-40 cookies
For the filling:
340g jar almond butter, roasted and unsalted
115g icing sugar
25ml cold water
50g unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
For the pastry:
330g unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
50g unsalted butter, melted
150ml orange blossom water
1 large egg, beaten for egg wash
icing sugar, for garnish
Start making the filling by first draining off any liquid that has separated at the top of the jar of almond butter. In a small saucepan over low heat combine the icing sugar and water and heat just until the sugar is dissolved. Melt in the butter then add the almond butter and continue to stir until the mix is fully incorporated and smooth. With the pan off the heat, add the almond extract and orange blossom water and stir to incorporate. Refrigerate until ready to use. This mix can be made up to a week ahead of time.
To make the pastry, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed add the butter and orange blossom water and mix for approximately 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, similar to a pasta dough. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding.
Divide the dough into four pieces and going one piece at a time, and using a pasta roller be it hand crank or an automatic attachment on your stand mixer, feed the dough through the roller, gradually working up the thinness as you would for pasta, until the dough is very thin, finishing around the 5 or 6 mark if using a Kitchen Aid stand mixer attachment. The idea here is that you want a sheet that’s tissue paper thin.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking trays with parchment paper.
This next part is a little bit like making ravioli and pierogi. Lay the thin sheet of pastry down on a work surface. Grab a teaspoon of the filling mixture and roll it into a 1 1/2” – 2” log with your hands and place on the end of the pastry sheet, giving yourself approximately a 3” border, and cut the square of pastry using a pastry cutting wheel. Using your finger, dab the egg wash sparingly along three of the four side of the pastry square. Fold the pastry over the log and press firmly to seal the pastry, while also shaping the pastry into a crescent shape. Using a ravioli cutter, cut the crescent, giving yourself approximately 1/4” between the filling and the edge, as the pastry will shrink as it bakes. If there isn’t enough of a border, the chances of the filling exploding out during baking are pretty good.
Place each crescent on a parchment-lined baking tray and keep refrigerated until the trays are full. Bake the trays for approximately 5-8 minutes. The dough will not brown but dry slightly. Transfer the crescents to a cooling rack and allow to cool before dusting with the icing sugar.